Premier John Horgan last week attempted to deliver a rosy outlook during his keynote address to the Natural Resources Forum in Prince George. Nevertheless, most in the room were left feeling unconvinced that the future may be bright in B.C.’s resource sector.
The Natural Resources Forum is one of the largest conferences held in Northern B.C. and attracts over 1,000 participants including all three levels of governments, First Nations and, of course, many representatives from resource developers, suppliers, and service industries. It spans everything from forestry, mining and energy resources; meaning pretty much every major employer in the North is present.
I was also in attendance at the Forum in Prince George, and the overwhelming sense that I walked away with is the worry and anxiety from all sectors, wondering what the future might hold. Many left feeling alienated from any provincial support. Front of mind for many was the ongoing forestry crisis, the ever-rising controversy surrounding both the Trans Mountain and Coastal GasLink pipelines, and a sharp 9% decline in B.C.’s mine exports. The current outlook for most certainly isn’t rosy.
However, the North Matters rally was a positive highlight for me. I was proud to stand with my colleagues, including the leader of the opposition, Andrew Wilkinson, MLAs Bernier, Bond, Morris, and Rustad, and most members of our caucus. As well as many friends including MP Zimmer along with Ian Fife and Dave Johnston of the North Matters.
Listening to hereditary chiefs, elected chiefs, and members from northern indigenous groups talk about the positive impact the resources sector has had on their communities was incredibly powerful. Thank you to the organizers and attendees. I only wish the premier and members of his NDP caucus might have come out and listened.
However, it seems Premier Horgan isn’t listening: he is either at the very least oblivious to the concerns of rural British Columbia, or at the most, he simply doesn’t care.
Industry leaders tried to convey key policy points to Premier Horgan, such as concerns about huge increases to the carbon tax, which B.C. businesses pay unlike others, and is set to go up again on April 1 — not an April Fool's joke!
The regulatory regime has become quite strict and complex in the industry, rendering it costly. When the system itself is too costly and too cumbersome to navigate – businesses go elsewhere, leaving B.C. workers paying the price. Laughably, during his address to the conference, the premier spoke of too much red tape – oh, the gall!
Premier Horgan may have felt he was “never more optimistic about B.C.’s future”, but he may have been the only one in the room who would share such an opinion.
Dan Davies is the MLA for Peace River North.